Anna Elizabeth Laube “Annamania”

Ahh….Pockets! Records, 2021

A masterclass in songwriting. But will the real Anna Laube step forward?

You can always identify real quality in song-writing. Some people just seem to have the right, deft touch to craft beautiful songs across a range of styles. Anna Elizabeth Laube is one of these master crafters of song. Listen to ‘All My Runnin’’, a half-spoken lyric linked to gently picked acoustic guitar and adorned with a plaintive steel guitar. It is gorgeous, especially where the slide guitar takes centre stage before dropping back behind those breathy, half-whispered vocals.

The styles shift constantly on this album. But it is a compilation of Laube’s best tracks from her previous four solo albums. Next up is the country blues of ‘If You Build It’ which replaces those whispered vocals with a more in your face Iris Dement style mountain blues approach. The tempo shifts again with the upbeat folk-pop drive of ‘Oh My! (Oh Me Oh Me Oh My)’. Another masterclass in song-writing.

Then another style shift into the fantastic ‘Jardim da Estrela’, an accordion-driven song influenced by her time in Lisbon. By now you may be wondering how this album has only achieved an average rating. The simple answer is that, despite being a stunningly gifted song-writer, the album leaves you with a bit of a question about who exactly Laube is.

After quitting a career in tech in San Francisco to follow her musical muse she has spent the last decade and a half nomadically playing across the US, selling albums at shows and writing and recording on her mobile studio with pick-up session players along the way. Her songs cover a pretty broad palette around a basic folk-Americana core. The result is intimate and impassioned and, in the best spirit of the term, folksy.

But what describes the real heart of Laube? The kooky Californian folk-pop of ‘Hippie Boyfriend’ or the distorted garage rock of ‘I’m Gone’? Or maybe soul-blues of ‘Beautiful Boy’?

The album ends with the evocative country-folk ballad of ‘Tree’. It is a tour de force of songwriting. I may not really know Anna Elizabeth Laube from this collection. But I know a beautiful, tender and poetic song when I hear it.


About Peter Tomkins 33 Articles
What brought me here? The Mekons, The Men They Couldn't Hang, Weddings Parties Anything, Blyth Power, Husker Du, Johnny Cash, Uncle Tupelo, Old 97s, Jerry Lee Lewis, Son Volt, Steve Earle, Bill Monroe, Sarah Shook, and on and on.
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